Family-run Produce Stand Reaps Many Rewards

March 29, 1992|By Jodi Bizar | Jodi Bizar,Contributing writer

Every morning by 8 a.m. they're up picking, then cleaning fruits andvegetables to be sold later in a stall near Susquehanna State Park.

Sometimes a lot of people stop and buy, and sometimes nobody stops.

But that's just business, says Bethany, 10, Aimee, 8, and Andrew,2, who run the stand under the tutelage of their mother, Belinda E. Karas of Havre de Grace.

"I kind of like selling the things," saidBethany. "I don't really like planting and picking. But I like it when we go out to the cucumber patch and play catch with cucumbers."

They all have their likes and dislikes. Aimee, for instance, hates weeding, while Andrew likes picking the produce -- provided it's green. He has a preference for things that are green, his mother said.

Karas, a former public school teacher, said the fruit and vegetable stand located on Craigs Corner and Wilkinson roads is the brainchild of the kids, who initially wanted to have a lemonade stand.

The twoolder girls set up a lemonade stand almost four years ago but, "We knew we'd need more than lemonade to get more people to stop," Karas said.

That's when they decided to sell vegetables. They grow the vegetables on about two acres of land on property belonging to Karas' parents -- James and Jean Emerson.

"(The growing of vegetables) wasjust something fun that has blossomed," Karas said, adding that it is a lot of work. By the end of March the Karases start germinating. Vegetables, Karas said, start appearing at the beginning of spring andcontinue growing right through the fall.

In early spring they grow zucchini, squash, potatoes, carrots and string beans. By the end ofMay, they start to grow lettuce, spinach, peppers, radishes, onions and peas.

Then by midsummer, they grow beets, cabbages, okra, raspberries, and blueberries.

In the fall it's turnips, Indian corn, acorn squash and mustard, not to mention pumpkins.

Before they can begin planting, the fields are plowed and fertilized by the children's father, John S. Karas, an Aberdeen attorney.

Then the children go out and put lime on the soil to neutralize it. Later they put grassand newspapers between the rows where produce will be grown to reduce the amount of weeds.

Karas said it takes between two and four hours every day to weed, plant and pick. She said they make up the prices for the various items. "We assign a price and if we see that it's not moving, we lower it."

When they first started selling, the kids used to man the stand all day. But that became too much of a chore.

"So we put it on automatic," said Aimee, explaining that they nowleave the stand unattended with signs noting the price and requesting that money be placed in a cup.

Karas said when they pick up the money cup at the end of the day, they find not only money, but checksand IOUs as well.

But not everyone is honorable, Karas said.

She said one woman pulled up with a car full of children and loaded her car with vegetables. Then she drove off without paying.

"I told the kids that if there's someone that does something like that, they probably just need the food," Karas said.

But despite the occasional theft, Karas said the business does well. Two years ago the children earned about $1,000. Last summer, however, since the camping ground part of the park was closed, the children only earned about $600.

Karas said they spend about $120 a year on seeds, so much of the money is used to buy something for the children. "They roll the money, and get a cut of it," Karas said.

Sometimes the money is used for business improvements, such as a new green-and-white striped tent to shade the vegetable and fruit display table.

Aimee said some of the money was used to purchase a TV for their room at a beach house they vacation in.

Although growing vegetables is serious business forBethany, Aimee and Andrew, it's just a hobby for Karas. She said shehas been gardening all her life. In addition to vegetables and fruits, she also grows flowers and spices in her back yard. "We're not experts," she said. "But we've learned a lot from this."

They often experiment with new things. For instance, they learned to grow pink and yellow tomatoes, which are larger than the red ones, sweeter and less acidic. This year they're going to try to grow a 3-pound Florida tomato.

"We're just going to grow it and see if it will weigh 3 pounds," Karas said.

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